Robert Nkemdiche played 36 snaps in Sunday's loss but it was enough to remind everyone why he was a first-round pick. He dominated up front recording six tackles and two assists with two and a half sacks. There has been little doubt of his ability from the start but Nkemdiche has struggled to stay on the field due to constant injury issues. If he can stay healthy, this is a player with the potential to become one of the league's best interior linemen.
Bene Benwikere has gone from the bench, to starter in a major role, to the street in three short weeks. Arizona signed Quinten Rollins and Dontae Johnson Tuesday as they continue the search for a starting corner opposite Patrick Peterson. What is basically comes down to is a series of live auditions as they search for players that could stick and possibly contribute next season as well. Leonard Johnson took on a bigger role against the Chargers and should be the flavor of the week versus Green Bay. This is a good matchup for corners and anyone lining up opposite Peterson is going to have plenty of opportunities. Roll Johnson out as a starting corner this week if you are in need but we should not count on him beyond that.
Josh Bynes landed on IR with a thumb injury this week. He was replaced by Gerald Hodges early on Sunday with Hodges going on to put up a strong stat line of 7-3-0. Many managers are scrambling to add Hodges this week as the waiver wire gets thin. It is hard to argue the addition of Hodges but the thought of putting him in the lineup in a must-win week for many managers is unsettling at the very least. History clearly shows Hodges is not an NFL starter. History also shows the Cardinals will play a guy one week and cut him the next. Hodges roster spot is safe but there is no guarantee how much he will see the field this week. Starting Haason Reddick would be a more safe option. He had eight combined tackles and assists versus Los Angeles and has been a three-down player for seven straight games.
The Falcons have been teasing us with the possible return of Deion Jones for the last couple weeks. Last Saturday, Coach Quinn told us Jones would not play Week 12, but Quinn was hopeful to have him for Week 13. If Jones is not a go, managers should not hesitate to plug in Foye Oluokun who has been solid in relief. Since Lamar Jackson has taken over the Ravens are a different team. In the games Jackson has started Bengals backup Hardy Nickerson went 8-3-0 followed by Tahir Whitehead with his best game of the season at 8-6-0 with a pass defended.
Damontae Kazee has not exceeded three solo tackles in a game since moving to free safety in Week 5, but big-play production has kept him relevant for IDP managers. This week's matchup with Baltimore could bring the tackle numbers back as four opposing safeties have recorded at least seven solo stops against the Ravens in their last three games.
Tony Jefferson missed some snaps with an ankle injury. He returned for a bit then left again. It seems likely the Ravens will turn to Chuck Clark this week against a Falcons offense that has been a strong matchup for safeties on most weeks.
This would be a good week to start Jerry Hughes. He is the best pass rusher on a Bills defense that has been playing well and getting pressure on the quarterback. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are allowing nearly three sacks per game on average since Week 5.
The Buccaneers have been a great matchup for corners all season regardless who is under center. James Bradberry did not have a great statistical game the first time these teams met but he did do an outstanding job in coverage while following Mike Evans, holding him to a single catch. The chances of shutting down Evans like that twice are slim so look for Bradberry to put up good numbers in this one.
Donte Jackson had five tackles and a pick in the first meeting. Unfortunately, neither the Panthers nor IDP managers are likely to have Jackson this time around after he left the Week 13 contest with a quad injury. Captain Munnerlyn stepped in opposite Bradberry last week and is likely to get the start.
Mario Addison has 29 combined tackles and assists to go along with 7.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles on the season. The overall numbers are solid but it has been feast or famine with Addison. He has reached double-digit points in three games while putting up five or fewer in five contests, including a pair of zeros. He is just too inconsistent to trust as more than a desperation play on most weeks. On the other hand, it is hard to overlook the single-game career high of 26 fantasy points he racked up against Tampa Bay in Week 9. If you are an underdog in need of a big game to make the playoffs, Addison is a tempting play.
Like a handful of other teams in the league, the Bengals lineup has been a revolving door as they desperately try to find a combination that works at linebacker. Over the past three games we have seen Hardy Nickerson in a three-down role at middle backer one week, then play three snaps the next. We have seen Jordan Evans play full time one week, have his time cut to half the snaps the next week then go back to full time again. Last week the Bengals moved Vontaze Burfict from his usual weakside role to the middle with Evans on the weak side and Vincent Rey strong. Both Burfict and Evans were on the field for virtually every play. While this approach was a disaster early in the game, the Bengals defense stiffened in the second half allowing just seven points. It seems likely Cincinnati will continue that way against a Denver offense that has been a strong matchup. Burfict is the only safe play among this group though Evans has shown good production when his opportunity allows. Nick Vigil returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday so he may be available in some capacity, further clouding the situation.
Most managers with Demarcus Lawrence on their roster will not have the luxury of sitting him. If you are one of the few exceptions with another quality option, consider it. The Saints have allowed a total of three sacks since Week 6.
Jarred Davis saved a horrible stat line with a fumble recovery in Week 12 but his one tackle and two assists are more than enough to have IDP managers second-guessing; especially with his one tackle output in Week 9 still lingering in the back of our minds. If you have another quality option give him some consideration but keep in mind Bobby Wagner went 10-3-0 and Blake Martinez 7-5-1 against the Rams in recent weeks. The matchup is a strong one.
Green Bay Packers
Kentrell Brice returned to the field for a while in Week 12. He was in and out of the lineup with the sore ankle before leaving with a concussion. The Packers finished the game with Josh Jones and Ibraheim Campbell at safety, Tramon Williams and Jaire Alexander on the corners and Josh Jackson in as the nickel back. With the Cardinals next on the schedule it is a good idea to avoid any of these guys with the possible exception of Alexander in corner required leagues.
The signing of safety Eddie Pleasant could mean we will not see Brice back on the field anytime soon.
There is a concern in Jacksonville over the availability of Jalen Ramsey this week as he deals with a sore knee. If Ramsey is not able to go, A.J. Bouye would be the team's number one corner with D.J. Hayden starting opposite him and Tyler Patman working in the nickel. Indianapolis has been a strong matchup for corners on most weeks but they tend to pick on one target. In Week 7 Taron Johnson had seven tackles against them while Tredavious White had two. When these teams met in Week 10 Ramsey had five tackles with Hayden and Patmon each collecting one (Bouye was out) Week 11 it was Adoree' Jackson at nine solo stops with Malcolm Butler making three. Last week Xavien Howard racked up five tackles and a pair of picks while Bobby McCain had two tackles. The moral of the story, if we can pick the right guy there are a lot of points to be found here; if Ramsey sits look for Bouye to be that guy.
Think twice about starting Calais Campbell or Yannick Ngakoue this week. The Colts have allowed one sack since Week 6.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs could finally have Eric Berry back soon. He is practicing this week for the first time since training camp. Chances are he will be eased back into action which means it may be deep into the fantasy playoffs before he assumes a full-time role. Too little and too late for most of us.
Dynasty managers looking for future prospects may want to give Dorian O'Daniel some consideration. He fits the mold of the new NFL linebacker; smaller, faster with strong cover skills and sideline to sideline range. O'Daniel has been seeing a lot of action as a nickel linebacker but has been creeping into some base package situations of late. There has been nothing eye-catching in the box scores so far but his play on the field has been solid versus both pass and run.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers made a somewhat surprising change by moving strong side linebacker Kyle Emmanuel to the middle in base packages against Arizona. That said, they spent most of the day in a nickel with Jatavis Brown and Adrian Phillips at linebacker. Uchenna Nwosu was also worked into the rotation. In the end, Jatavis Brown led the way with 87% of the snaps followed by Phillips with 72%.
Los Angeles Rams
This is a good week to start Ndamukong Suh. The guy can simply be unblockable when motivated and nothing has motivated him more in the past than facing a former employer. It does not hurt that the Lions have given up nearly four sacks a game since Week 6.
We saw the Lions ride LeGarrette Blount last week with a lot of success. Look for them to try that game plan again this week in an attempt to keep the Rams offense off the field. This could mean a huge game for Cory Littleton and John Johnson III. It may even make Mark Barron a quality LB3.
Last week's advice was to roll with Everson Griffen based on a strong matchup and his history of great production. He saved a second consecutive horrible outing with a late sack but was not the player we have come to expect. Between the poor production and a far less favorable matchup with the Patriots, there will be no such advice this week. Leave Griffen on the bench unless you have no other decent options.
Xavier Rhodes limped off the field with what looked like a serious hamstring injury. Later reports suggest the injury is not so serious and he may even be available week 13. The Patriots have been a strong matchup for corners so keep an eye on the late week participation reports.
New Orleans Saints
We have waited all season for someone to emerge as a full-time strong safety for the Saints. We are still waiting for someone to play every snap, but Vonn Bell has been on the field for 88% of the snaps over the last two games which may be close enough. Bell had seven tackles and a fumble recovery against the Falcons and has a plus matchup with Dallas this week. Looking ahead New Orleans has Tampa Bay in Week 4teen and the Steelers in Week 6teen. Both have been strong matchups for tackle producing safeties.
New York Jets
The Jets free safety position has been a hotbed of box score production this year. From Doug Middleton early in the season to Marcus May for a few games and now Darryl Roberts, nearly everyone to line up there has given us good value. Roberts filled in at corner while Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine were out. He shifted to safety against New England producing seven tackles and an assist on 96% of the snaps. Tennessee is not as strong a matchup but it is not as if we need to worry about the Jets blowing anyone out. Maye is not practicing early this week so Roberts is likely to make another start.
The Raiders continue to move guys in and out of the lineup in what looks like a season-long evaluation process. They have finally gotten around to looking at safety Karl Joseph again. After playing 11 snaps over the first six games leading up to the bye, Joseph has been on the field over 80% of the time in two of the last three games, including a season-high 61 plays against Baltimore. He parlayed the opportunity into seven solo stops and an assist, making Joseph the team's second-leading tackler on Sunday. Most importantly, he looked good on the field. It is far too late to count on him for anything this season and there is a good chance Joseph will be in a different uniform in 2019, making him a player of interest for dynasty managers looking to roster future potential.
Nigel Bradham moved to middle linebacker in week 12, playing every down. Meanwhile Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill each played just more than half the snaps on the outside. It looks like Bradham will be the only useful fantasy target among the Eagles linebackers until/unless Jordan Hicks get back on the field. Bradham will play with a cast on his hand to protect a broken thumb suffered against the Giants so we should be reasonable with expectations.
Rasul Douglas was active against the Giants but played just two snaps due to a sore ankle and knee. With another week of rest, he could have a much bigger role versus Washington. The Eagles could get some guys back in the secondary soon as Jalen Mills, Sydney Jones, and Avonte Adams are all considered day to day with a variety of injuries.
Sean Davis gave us a couple strong games in the weeks leading up to the Denver game. His production took week 12 off despite the strong matchup. The Chargers are another plus matchup but it is hard to be comfortable about playing Davis if you have other options.
Bradly McDougald finally looked healthy after playing through a sore knee for a few weeks and it's just in time for a matchup with a San Francisco squad that helped Landon Collins to a nine-tackle game in Week 11 and Jordan Whitehead to 10 solo stops on Sunday.
It was about this time last season when Dion Jordan got on an impressive role that had both the Seahawks and IDP managers excited. Injuries once again derailed much of this season but just maybe there will be a repeat performance. Jordan saw a significantly increased role playing nearly 70% of the snaps in Week 12. There was nothing to look at in the box scores but keep an eye on this guy against San Francisco this week.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers released Reuben Foster after yet another off-field incident. This is a big boost for Fred Warner's stock but he is not the only player to get a bump in value. To replace Foster San Francisco used a combination of Elijah Lee who saw 68% of the snaps, Malcolm Smith who played 36% including most of the nickel packages, along with Mark Nzeocha and Dekoda Watson who had 48 snaps between them in lesser roles. While we may not get a three-down replacement for Foster, Lee could provide some value. He had a huge game in Week 2 when Foster was suspended and went 6-1-0 with a pass breakup against Tampa Bay. San Francisco faces a Seattle offense this week that is running the ball more than anyone in the league and they have a rematch in Week 15. Nothing is guaranteed but Lee could prove a quality late add if you find yourself thin at the position.
Jaquiski Tartt managed 90% of the snaps in Sunday's contest but continued to struggle with his shoulder injury. He had three tackles and three assists in the game, all coming in the first half before aggravating the injury. Dynasty managers should hold onto Tartt but those in redraft leagues may want to look for a replacement even if it means streaming matchups in the playoffs. Tartt is not going to be healthy the rest of this season and cannot be trusted as a starter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jordan Whitehead should be at the top of many waiver lists this week. He has 17 tackles, 2 assists and a pair of pass breakups over the past two games and a stellar string of matchups with the Panthers this week followed by the Saints, Ravens, and Cowboys during the fantasy playoffs. The Buccaneers are a disaster at linebacker until/unless Lavonte David returns and even then there will be plenty of opportunity for the strong safety.
No opposing linebacker has more than five solo stops against the Jets in any of their last seven games, so it might be a good idea to keep Jayon Brown and Wesley Woodyard on the bench this week. Brown has been a factor as a pass rusher and has a chance to overcome what is likely to be modest tackle totals.
That does it for the fantasy regular season. Best of luck in those big games this week!